The architect Fernando Undurraga affirms that it is so moving to watch the full moon emerge on the horizon from Easter Island bathed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, that it was not hard to give the name Mahina – as the Earth’s natural satellite is known in Polynesia – to the first hand-crafted beer entirely made on Rapa Nui, which is preparing its launch in September.
At the beginning of the decade the young professional was on the island located 4,000 kilometers out to sea as project chief for the exclusive Explora hotel, where he got along well with Mike Rapu, an entrepreneur from Easter Island who provided the company with the almost 120 hectares that the tourist facility is located on.
“While there I realized the large number of business possibilities that could be materialized on the island, the desire to get things done, to boost products and to certify their origin. And the idea of a beer seemed very interesting to me, especially after hearing of the plans to make alcoholic beverages there,” he says.
But the business did not become a reality immediately. Years went by before Undurraga ended up getting together with his Rapa Nui counterpart – whose grandfather had made a timid attempt to make a corn-based liquor in the mid-20th century – and another good collaborator, Andrés Martínez, whose experience in Santiago with the hand-crafted beer Quimera was fundamental to the initiative.
Martínez recalls that his partner, despite his knowledge as an architect with gastronomy studies, knew little or nothing about the fermentation of barley. “He contacted me through another friend and he told me about the project. He then went to see the brewery, we invited him see when we were brewing and we talked about the business. Briefly put, we created a friendship of assistance,” he says.
Mahina is currently made in a 190 m2 brewery and is equipped to produce 2,700 liters per month, though the positive reception it has had in both the island as well as in Tahiti (thanks to a partnership with another entrepreneur on the island) has obliged the company to invest in fermentation vats that will allow them to now place 4,000 liters in restaurants, hotels, and Easter Island retailers.
Looking to the world
Undurraga and Martínez hope that their product’s success will lead them to double their capacity by the end of 2010, with shipments to Santiago, the United States and Europe.
“On the one hand we have our pale ale, a light beer with 4.8 degrees alcohol that is refreshing, light, smooth, and with a hand-crafted nature that offers notes of fruits and a honey aftertaste that cannot be found in industrial beers. On the other is the stout, a black beer with 6.8 degrees alcohol, a stronger variety with a taste of chocolate and coffee, but no less welcoming for that. It is a very delicious accompaniment for the local species that are eaten on the island, such as tuna,” they say.
They studied which varieties to make very closely. The dark variety was created based on current world beer consumption trends. For its part, the pale ale is easily identified with the tropical climate – temperatures average 18 degrees – and the beach atmosphere of Rapa Nui.
The logotype on the bottles is also associated with the island and, more specifically, with its Moais, those famous colossal stone statues that were carved in the 12th – 17th centuries and which are located in different parts of the island.
Mahina’s creators also attribute with another special dual symbolism to it, as it evokes exotic landscapes in people and transports them to a faraway place like Easter Island, while in the people of Rapa Nui it arouses a deep-rooted feeling of pride and the conviction that the island is much more than a post card of Anakena Beach.